David Chlopecki is about to shine a whole new light on your childhood.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the cartoon that ran from 1983-85 and then forever in syndication, was "the gayest show that has ever been on TV," Chlopecki asserts, with absolute certainty. As a lifelong fan of the franchise, who first discovered the toys before the show even began running, he's had a long time to think about this. And the reasons he lays out in the latest episode of The Fandom Files are pretty unimpeachable.
First, take the show's opening credits sequence. "As the intro to the show, they say, 'Fabulous secret powers were revealed to him the day he held aloft his magic sword.' These are not regular superpowers. These are not powers from the ancients. These are fabulous secret powers. Heterosexuals, they don't have fabulous secret powers. So he gets fabulous secret powers the day he draws out his sword, wink, wink."
It only gets more overt from there.
"Prince Adam is a very gay guy. He is wearing spandex, lavender spandex, and pink spandex, and white spandex," he notes. "That look, a blond pageboy haircut. There's never been a gayer character! Name one! Snagglepuss sounds gay, but does not look as gay. So he goes from a guy wearing spandex with a pageboy haircut, he holds aloft his magic sword, and, poof! His clothes are gone. And he's wearing a harness. Now, the only time my clothes have been gone and I'm wearing a harness is when I'm having sex with men."
Chlopecki is even more enamored with Skeletor, He-Man's evil but hapless archnemesis. Back in 2011, Chlopecki's company Slick It Up created an art show devoted to Skeletor, with pieces by artists like Marc Jacobs and Helmut Lang. It was a huge hit — proceeds went to the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth — and it was clear that a lot of people connected to Skeletor for a reason.
"That voice! And his frustration with people, he's always surrounded by idiots," Chlopeki says. "He always plays that role of someone outside the loop, which is a gay person's role, outside the majority and having a hard time with this conservative majority, which is like He-Man's world. He-Man doesn't want change. And Skeletor really just wants to change the world for him and his friends. He's really just kinda doing his own thing and He-Man stops him."
It goes deeper than personality traits and silly foiled plots. Chlopecki says both characters' bodies are indicative of the AIDS epidemic that ravaged the LGBTQ community when the show was being made.
"You had extreme facial wasting, where you just had a skull. So it's very interesting to imagine that like, here you have Skeletor, who is this buff guy who's frustrated by the world, in a frustrating situation, his face is a skull, and then you have all these gay guys who are dying and their faces are wasting away, but they're all on steroids, so they're like buff. So they have this deformed person [Skeletor], and then you have these perfect guys, which is He-Man."
As he notes, in the early '80s, there were no real characters on TV, and homosexuality was usually used as a punchline. And so he's not suggesting that He-Man and Skeletor are supposed to be overtly gay — they're either the result of coding from the show's creators, or the product of an unacknowledged subconscious.
"I wouldn't be surprised if these guys didn't know what they were doing, if they didn't have an agenda and they were just sort of making it," he says. "Because if you're just pulling from your subconscious, you'd be pulling all these things."
To contact us about the podcast -- or to nominate yourself or someone else as a future guest! -- feel free to drop us an e-mail or tweet at us. And if you like what you hear, please be sure to rate and review us on iTunes!